The story was splashed across the front page in three bold lines: “Save our children.” It relied on quotes from the federal assistant minister for children and families, David Gillespie, who said now was the time to place Aboriginal children with white families.
“Foster care is not ideal but there is a reluctance to put them in a more permanent situation for fear of creating another stolen generation,’’ Gillespie said in the paper.
[T]he idea that Aboriginal children are not being placed in white families is a lie. The kinship and Aboriginal child placement principles in many states and territories recognise the need for Aboriginal children to be kept in communities, or in extended families. But often, in practice this principle has fallen far short of its aims.
There was also the issue of child protection agencies not consulting with families about child placements, and children, even those placed in kinship care, being separated from their respective communities and cultures.
In Victoria, as reported by the Guardian’s Calla Wahlquist, a third of First Nations children are placed with Aboriginal kin, and 41.6% are placed with non-Indigenous carers.
The greater lie is that Aboriginal children are not being taken away and are being kept in dangerous situations for fear of a stolen generation. That does not gel with the statistics: Aboriginal children are being taken away at exponential rates and these rates have grown every year since Kevin Rudd gave his apology to the stolen generations and promised it would “never happen again”.
While non-Indigenous children are more likely to be taken away for physical and emotional abuse, Aboriginal children are largely taken away because of “neglect”, which is often seen as a subjective term based on cultural interpretation.
[O]f course there are some children who need to be taken away. But there should be a concerted effort to place children with families – with aunties, uncles or grandparents and, if not, other members of the community. And there should be a concerted effort to support Aboriginal mothers and fathers so they can raise their children in a safe and loving environment.
If children are taken away from their families they are placed in the care of the minister. Shouldn’t there be accountability? How can we be assured that they are not placed in more danger than what they were in, given the state of the child protection system?